Specialization is a solution in search of a problem. Mr. Holmes spends his time trying to advance a pet theory (with a little patting himself on the back) instead of looking at the real problems facing surface warfare.
Newly commissioned officers are installed as the heads of divisions—and typically find themselves as neophytes among experts. Learning to supervise a division and keep its affairs in order is a full-time job. Immediate administrative demands are also what obsesses higher-ups, who want to look good for the next inspection. Administration has a habit of crowding out training.
Enlisted folk—including chief petty officers, rightly described as the backbone of any ship’s crew—already do specialize. So do “warrant” and “limited-duty” officers, enlisted superstars granted their commissions. There is no reason the surface navy couldn’t apply that logic to division officers, handing over the administrative and technical functions now heaped on newly commissioned officers to these longtimers. Make experienced hands division officers.
Let’s be frank. Few shipboard divisions—of electricians, fire-control technicians or what have you—really need a newcomer from NROTC, the Naval Academy or Officer Candidate School to execute their missions with efficiency and aplomb. Assign divisions the requisite enlisted and ex-enlisted leadership and watch them flourish. Make seamanship and tactics the main purpose for newly commissioned officers and watch them flourish.
I don’t know how an a person can write those paragraphs and not draw the conclusion that our sailors are being killed by the administrative burden being placed on them, not that we need to take enlisted technical experts out of the plant and spaces and put them in the log room! We need to take a chainsaw to the vines of bureaucracy that are choking our ships to death!
And for the record, we tried doing exactly what Mr. Holmes suggested, 14 years ago:
It didn’t work, but don’t expect anyone to admit that anytime soon.